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Soldiers’ murder trial postponed

 

Moorosi Tsiane

THE trial of 10 soldiers accused of murdering three civilians in Maseru in May 2017 has been postponed to 22 September 2022.

Judge Moroke Mokhesi on Thursday postponed the matter to give the Crown ample time to locate and bring to court a witness who is said to reside in rural Mohale’s Hoek.

The accused are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Major Pitso Ramoepane, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.

They allegedly strangled Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped their bodies in the Mohale Dam.

The soldiers allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three men after the trio had just been released from police custody where they had been detained in connection with a shooting incident at the Maseru border gate on 13 May 2017.

The trial initially got underway in January and it resumed a fortnight ago with the defence lawyers cross-examining an accomplice-turned-witness, Major Tsietsi Monyeke.

The defence team comprises of Advocates Letuka Molati, Karabo Mohau KC, Napo Mafaesa and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika.

Major Monyeke had told the High Court in March this year that his former boss at the Military Intelligence (MI), Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, had ordered the soldiers to kill the trio.

However, his allegations were dismissed as “lies” by the defence when it cross-examined him two weeks ago.

Thereafter, the lead prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, called one Malerato Noko to the stand. Ms Noko is mother to one of the murder victims, Noko.

In her testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, Ms Noko narrated to the High Court how her son was abducted by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members in a bus travelling from Maseru to Maputsoe.

She said following her son’s release from police custody, they were on their way to their Leribe home on that fateful day when soldiers attacked the bus they were travelling in and abducted Lekhoele.

She said the soldiers dragged her son who was hiding under the seat and assaulted him until he fainted. After realising that he had fainted, they took him out of the bus into one of the vehicles.

Ms Noko said that was the last she saw her son alive.

“The next time I saw him was after I got a phone call from the police that I should come to one government hospital in Maseru to identify his body, which I did,” she told the court.

After her testimony, the defence elected not to cross-examine her.

Due to the unavailability of the next witness, who is said to reside in Leribe, the Crown and defence agreed that the case be postponed to next month.

Justice Mokhesi then postponed the case to 22 September 2022.

 

 

 

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